Following a recent review of UK planning policy, changes have been proposed that will protect our ancient woodlands from further development and destruction. Your support is needed to make these proposals reality. Ancient trees, however, are being left out in the cold. By letting your opinion on this omission be known, we can all do our part to protect these irreplaceable habitats from harm.
Ancient woodlands are havens of greenery that have provided us with a means of connecting to the earth back throughout history. The deep, dark forest is where we go in order to discover ourselves–as is demonstrated in folk tales and fairy stories galore. Robin Hood’s outlaws dwell in the depths of Sherwood. Little Red Riding Hood must venture through the woods to reach Grandma’s house. Technically, ancient woodland is any wood that has existed since at least 1600AD in England and Wales, and 1750AD in Scotland. Many of them have in reality been present for far longer, whittled away from the great wildwood that covered the whole landscape of Britain after the glaciers of the last ice age receded. More familiar to us now are the smaller enclaves of ancient woodland that still remain, surrounded by buildings or hemmed in by roads.
To walk through such a place, beneath the branches of trees that have stood for hundreds of years, listening to the songs of birds, and insects, and all of the scurrying wildlife around you, can be an almost spiritual experience. Studies have shown that walking in nature helps to calm the mind, easing depression as it sooths away the stresses of modern life.
On a ecological level, ancient woodlands are havens of biodiversity, filled with myriad species. There are a number of species, such as wood anenome, bluebell and dotted thyme moss, that are particularly associated with ancient woodland. They are far less common even in simply long-established woodland. The high levels of biodiversity are such because of the vast age of the woodland. They’ve matured and developed over the course of centuries, with layers of decomposition built up that contain closely connected networks of plants, animals and fungi. These networks rely on the ground remaining undisturbed by human activity.
Our ancient woodlands are irreplaceable.
Unfortunately, the UK’s ancient woodlands have continued to be threatened by a multitude of new supermarkets, car parks, and houses, with far too many being lost to human development over the past decades. Only 2% of the UK ‘s land area is still covered in ancient woodland.
But that could be about to change. Following a Government review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) an alteration to planning legislation wording has been proposed. This will close the loophole that has allowed the destruction to occur. The proposal will be in discussion until May 10th, when they’ll decide whether to bring the change into effect.
This is where you come in.
Show your support
It is important that the government knows how important this is to the public. Have your say and help to save ancient woodland.
But what about the ancient trees
The change in wording is a perfect solution for ancient woodland. Unfortunately it omits ancient trees. This means that a tree that grow alone, in the middle of a field, or in a village or town–a single, majestic presence that has stood for generations–continues to be endangered. Previously an individual tree has been judged to be equal to a woodland, but now they are being left behind.
But they are no less precious just because they stand alone. Nor are they any less valuable a habitat. Bird’s nest in their branches, whilst squirrels, mice, and a host of small mammals all make them their homes. Insects, plants and fungi all thrive in and on their bark and amongst their roots. They purify the very air we breath. They are just as irreplaceable as ancient woodland.
Let the government know that ancient trees need to be protected, too.
Use the form from the Woodland Trust to have your say.